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V For Vendetta review

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V For Vendetta review
Director: James McTeigue
Screenwriters: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Fry, John Hurt
Running time: 132 mins
Certificate: 15

Set in a London of a not too distant future, V For Vendetta follows the campaign of terrorist anti-hero 'V' (Hugo Weaving), a man in a Guy Fawkes mask planning to succeed where Fawkes failed in blowing up the Houses of Parliament as a blow to Adam Sutler's (Hurt) totalitarian government. Meanwhile, he also aims to complete a personal vendetta against the people who turned him into the crusader he has become. In rescuing a young woman (Portman) from a trio of would-be rapists one night, V finds a new ally and disciple.

The film is based on the graphic novel penned by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in which the pair imagined an alternative future inspired by Thatcher's Conservative government of the 1980s (immigrants and homosexuals are illegal) in which all power would rest in one man and the institution would feed information to the oppressed through doctored news. Keeping the same spirit, the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix) have updated the vision, making references to bird flu and Islamophobia.

Instead of being a politically-based swashbuckler as the publicity may have us believe, V For Vendetta is more a ponderous thought-provoking political thriller. Keeping the explosions and flying daggers to a minimum, V is more concerned in an examination of freedoms of speech, information, religion and sexuality. These potentially dry issues are wrapped up in an enthralling storyline as small tidbits of the lead character's history and motivations are revealed.

Boasting an excellently-crafted dark atmosphere, the film stands well independent of its graphic novel incarnation, easily accessible to viewers with no prior knowledge of the plot. The acting is solid in almost all quarters. Weaving, spending the entire duration behind an expressionless (or rather perpetually grinning) mask, evokes sympathy as V, a complex character stuck between hero and anti-hero. Strong support comes from the likes of John Hurt and Stephen Fry, the latter making a welcome foray onto the big screen. Natalie Portman is also well-cast as Evey, though a minor quibble is to be had with her accent which fluctuates from English to Australian without notice.

The best adaptation of Moore's work to date (others being The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell), is a great watch for those who like some thought alongside their explosions.

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